Monday, November 03, 2008

Don’t Mention The War.

This day in 1904 was the birthday of the English writer Nancy Mitford. I admit to knowing next to nothing about Miss Mitford, save that she was vaguely aristocratic and wrote a lot about the vaguely aristocratic. I do have one longish quotation from her in my file however that says much about that particular species.

She is speaking about Right Honourable Sir Gerald Hugh Tyrwhitt Wilson, 14th Baron, aka Lord Berners (1883-1950), during World War II.

“There is something magic about all of Faringdon, and Lord Berners himself, in his skull cap, looks not unlike a magician, but perhaps the greatest, most amazing conjuring tricks are reserved for the dining room. In this pleasant sunny white room, scattered with large silver-gilt birds and wonderful Sevres and Dresden china, a standard of culinary perfection has been maintained through the darkest days of war. Cook or no cook, raw materials or no raw materials, a succession of utterly delicious courses would somehow waft themselves to the sideboard, and the poor Londoner, starved, or sated with Spam, would see sights and taste tastes he had long ago forgotten to believe in.”

Lord Berners has been called “The Last Eccentric” of England, but he is not, there are still quite a few of them around. He could, however, be eligible for “One of the Most Eccentric.” One has to be aristocratic or wealthy, or both, and preferably English to be able to cultivate eccentricity. Lord Berners was a musician and novelist, and a Peer of the Realm. His whippets sported diamond collars, his doves were dyed in all the colours of the rainbow, and he trained a parrot to walk under a bowler hat (thereby creating the illusion that the hat was moving across the floor.)

I think it improbable –that Lord Berners ever ate Spam himself. Spam, as I am sure you are aware if you were born BC (before computers), is a “manufactured meat product” perpetrated upon the world by “The Yanks” and sent over to England by the shipload during the war, to the undying gratitude of the Poms, who came to love it with a guilty passion.

The Ministry of Food during the war conducted ongoing campaigns to advise the British housewife how to cope with rationing. At one time the ads featured a series of fictitious housewives with not-very convincing names. “Mrs. Merry” at one time asked “For only 12 points you can get a lovely big tin of American pork sausagemeat, but what’s the best way to use it?’ The famous and favourite cookbook writer Marguerite Patten was advisor to the Ministry of Food during the war, and she says “There’s lots of ways to use it, but here’s one of our favourites and the beautiful clean pork fat in the tin is wonderful for making pastry.”

Fillets of Pork.
Flake ½ lb. pork sausagemeat (with the outside fat removed), then mix in ½ lb mashed potatoes and one cupful of crisp breadcrumbs. Season well with pepper and salt adding a pinch of sage if liked. Then bind with a thick sauce made from the meat juices taken from the can, and made up to one teacup measure with vegetable stock and 1 tablespoon of flour plus a little of the pork fat from the tin.
Divide into nine or ten sections, shape into finger rolls, coat in more crumbs, and fry or bake till heated through and crisp coated, with a light greasing of pork fat for the frying pan or baking tin.

I guess if you are going to use canned pork sausagemeat, you may as well call the dish Fillets of Pork, yes? I also guess that it was Spam that was intended, but the MOF could not appear to be recommending a particular brand.

Quotation for the Day …

Dine we must and we may as well dine elegantly as well as wholesomely. Isabella Beeton.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

An American here, who feels compelled to defend her national mystery meat. Spam is actually not bad--you should try the recipes that they have for it in Japan and Hawaii--spam-and-egg sushi is actually extremely good.

I also like spam hash, and spam-and-sauerkraut sandwiches (use wheat bread, and be sure to toast it)

Though I suppose it was a different story for people working with limited ingredients other than Spam.